A blog article by Bonniejean Alford (educator, activist, world citizen))
The most amazing thing happened as I read through the statuses of my friends on Facebook: I saw that an old friend of mine from high school, whom I haven’t seen in 20 years, happened to be in my Illinois town visiting friends (rather than back home in California). I sent a message and she came over and we caught up on those twenty years in just a few hours. It was spur of the moment, fun, and a great reminder of the value of friendship.
But it got me thinking: How often do we really take the time to nurture and honor all of our friendships? I know I don’t devote as much time as I should to each of the amazing and unique friendships I have cultivated over the years. Truthfully, I am not sure I have enough time in a year to more deeply develop each and every friendship I have made, since I am a social butterfly and all.
But the reality is, some friendships are meant to be fleeting while others are meant to stand the test of time. How do you know the difference? How do you pick and choose which friendships to build and which to allow to fade away? There really isn’t an easy answer. But to start, you take every opportunity to spend time with the friends you have and those you hope to make.
But it really isn’t that simple, is it?
It could be, if we forget about the reciprocal nature of friendship. I have had friends over the years that I have continuously reached out to that haven’t responded. They have ultimately chosen for me to let the friendship fade into the realm of all things past. Can I blame them? Not at all. They have busy lives just as I do and in seeking out long term friendships one needs to connect on a multitude of levels with a deep mutual respect for a friendship to truly stand the test of time.
And all this can only be made less simple when we take into account the vast array of Internet social networking sites, like Facebook, that put all those friends of the past at our fingertips. In the days before Facebook, some friendships would exist only in the hallows of the past with the question of “what ever happened to ____?” asked at reunions and the like. Now, long term friendships, fleeting friendships, work friendships, past friendships, and any other kind of friendship you can imagine are lumped together in one big party on Facebook.
The jury is still out on the mental health factor of it all.
As I say this, I am reminded of a car commercial about a daughter that spends months convincing her parents to join Facebook. They finally do and have about twenty friends. The daughter is so excited about their progress as she comments about her hundreds of friends and how looking at their pictures online is living. The commercial cuts to her parents out hiking, biking, and other activities out in the world with friends.
As I sit at Facebook, sometimes sucked in for hours, I wonder which is better and if there truly can be a balance between the two. Was the world a better place when we all weren’t so linked in? Don’t get me wrong, each person I have chosen to friend on Facebook is someone that means something to me, even if the friendship began many years ago and took a very long hiatus. For me, friendship is for life unless you screw me over so badly that there is no recovery (has only happened three times in my life). The friendship depth does vary from person to person, but it doesn’t change the fact that once my friend always my friend.
I see each and every one of my friendships as a blessing. But like anything important, they take hard work and need to be maintained. In my mind, wasting a friendship is worse than wasting money. Money can be replaced (eventually), but the unique connection two people share is one of a kind, irreplaceable, and simply priceless.